13 May 2016

A visit of a GUE/NGL (European United Left – Nordic Green Left) parliamentary delegation last week to Turkey revealed that the people returned under the EU-Turkey deal – including children – are not given an opportunity to apply for asylum, are denied access to information, and detained in prison-like conditions with no access to legal assistance.

The delegation visited two removal centres and confirmed in conversation with the returnees the horrible conditions to which they are exposed. Previous reports by Human Rights Watch and ECRE member Multeci-Der have also documented the lack of access to information and legal assistance, in the framework of the EU-Turkey deal, whilst its implementation has been praised by EU officials.

One of the conditions of the (in)famous EU-Turkey deal is that Turkish nationals will be granted visa-free travel to the European Union from June, and in order to do so, Turkey needs to meet a series of requirements set out by the EU. In its recent Visa Progress Report on Turkey, the European Commission recognised that a number of measures are still to be met – namely a change to anti-terrorist laws.

At the same time though, the Commission proposed a waiver for the outstanding visa requirements, with the understanding that they will be met soon enough. Many members of the European Parliament have voiced strong concerns in this regard, highlighting the need to not treat Turkey as a privileged partner, and the European Parliament refused to continue discussions on visa liberalisation unless all the conditions are met beforehand by Turkey.

Turkey’s anti-terror laws provide a very broad definition of the term, which has in the past also included journalists and academics. However, Turkish President Erdogan has stated that a change to the anti-terrorism laws is not going to be discussed and threatened the end of the EU-Turkey deal if visa liberalisation is not granted.

In the meantime, the EU-Turkey deal seems to have reached a standstill: only 15 more refugees have been resettled from Turkey to the EU over the last few weeks and no returns to Turkey have taken place since 27 April.

For further information:

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.